What is narcissistic abuse?

Identifying a Toxic Relationship

How can you identify narcissistic abuse?

“Narcissism falls along the axis of what psychologists call personality disorders, one of a group that includes antisocial, dependent, histrionic, avoidant and borderline personalities. But by most measures, narcissism is one of the worst, if only because the narcissists themselves are so clueless.” ~Jeffrey Kluger

If you’ve ever had a friend, family member or co-worker who is a narcissist or who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), chances are you have been the victim of gaslighting, which is a manipulation technique they often employ to get what they want.

“Those who engage in gaslighting create a reaction — whether it’s anger, frustration, sadness — in the person they are dealing with,” writes Yashar Ali in a Huffington Post article. “Then, when that person reacts, the gaslighter makes them feel uncomfortable and insecure by behaving as if their feelings aren’t rational or normal.”

What are codependency and enmeshment?

Enmeshment and co-dependency are two unfortunate byproducts of toxic family relationships. In a co-dependent relationship, one or both family members involved are psychologically influenced or controlled by the other–or they may need that other person to help fulfill their own needs or even to feel whole.

Related: What You Need to Know if You Love a Narcissist

While the term “co-dependent” was originally coined by the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery group, it has since been adopted by psychologists and other mental health professionals.

“A co-dependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior,” says author Melody Beattie, in her book, Codependent No More.

Enmeshment goes hand-in-hand with co-dependence. When you are enmeshed with another person, it means that you depend on that person to define your identity, your sense of being good enough or worthy of having good things in your life, your overall sense of well-being and even your own safety and security. Or, to put it more clearly–you are enmeshed when you can’t feel like a whole or satisfied person without the approval or presence of another person.

Being enmeshed with a toxic family member is unhealthy for all involved–it isn’t compatible with being an individual. Enmeshment takes away your personal power and the ability to manifest your true desires.

If you think you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, check out this resource page – and don’t forget to join my new online support group, SPAN, right here. 

How do we become trauma bonded with a narcissist?

You develop what appears to be extreme loyalty to the narcissist. But what you might really be dealing with is a whole other ball of wax.

See, because of the excessive pressure you’re under inside of the relationship, you might find yourself being almost rude to people on the outside.

Related: Narcissism Exposed – An Example of Gaslighting in Relationships 

This might be due to your desire to keep your narcissist happy and avoid another raging episode, or it might just be because you’re so mentally exhausted from dealing with him that you literally can’t deal with anyone else’s issues.

In any case, the narcissist gets what he wants yet again – you, isolated and under control.

How do you deal with a narcissist in a relationship?

As with any other toxic family situation, it may be best to distance yourself from a person with NPD. This is especially true because they don’t generally realize that anything is wrong. Plus, there is currently no known “cure” for NPD–though if a person affected with it seeks therapy, change is possible. However, it’s very unusual for a person with NPD to seek therapy since they don’t see a problem with their behavior.

“Why would someone who thinks they’re special and great come for therapy?” Bloxham says.

What is love bombing?

Also known as the idealization phase, love bombing is how a narcissist gets you to commit to them and it’s what they use to intermittently reinforce the relationship throughout. In short, it’s how they keep you feeling tiny bits of hope as the relationship goes on, and in the beginning, it’s that the “honeymoon” phase that never fails to dazzle. In other words, people with NPD are good at making those around them, especially people who don’t know them intimately, believe that they are something special. Family members of people dealing with NPD will typically find themselves trying to please him or her, and feeling guilty if they fail. They may even be afraid of how the person with NPD will react if their desires can’t be met or if they are defied in some way.

Understanding Narcissistic Abuse

What are some signs of a toxic relationship?

  • Overstepping Boundaries–Psychological boundaries are defined as perceptions or beliefs that people hold in relation to their social group memberships, including but not limited to families, as well as their own identities and overall self-concepts. In part, boundaries help us to distinguish ourselves from other people–you know, that thing which separates “I” from “We.” Boundaries also help us define how we are linked together within our families and extended families. Toxic family members often have trouble with boundaries. That is, they will often feel entitled to involve themselves in your life on an unhealthy level. They may try to make you feel responsible for their emotions or their circumstances, blame you for things that you have no control over or try to control you and your choices.
  • Unfair or Unrealistic Requirements–Toxic family members generally have different beliefs or perspectives than you when it comes to things like trust, responsibilities, money, time and attention. They may become angry if you don’t do as they wish, even if it doesn’t directly affect them–but especially if it does. For example, if you are unable to attend a family gathering, a toxic person might try to make you feel guilty or simply stop speaking to you.
  • Double Standards–Many toxic family members hold tightly to their own double standards. For example, they may expect you to keep their secrets or “have their backs” when other people gossip negatively about them, but they can’t or won’t offer you the same courtesy.
  • Manipulation–Toxic family members are master manipulators–and they will deny it if you call them on it. They will use every manipulation technique at their disposal in order to control you. They may cry, scream, argue, beg–anything they can think of to get you to do what they want, even if what they want isn’t what’s best for you. And, if the first technique doesn’t work, they’ll often move down the list.

Why is it so hard to live with a narcissist?

Why do narcissists feel the need to create such difficulties for the people in their lives? It has a lot to do with their need to be in control of every person, situation and thing they come into contact with – at least on some level.

For a narcissist, this is just par for the course – it’s how they manage relationships and how they keep themselves artificially elevated within their own fragile egos- they start by messing with your head.

Seriously. It’s all part of a complicated and convoluted manipulation technique called gaslighting.

Learn more about gaslighting and narcissism.

You become addicted to a narcissist’s approval. As his source of narcissistic supply, you seek it out, changing yourself entirely if necessary to get that coveted “atta girl/boy.”

Related: Inside a narcissistic attack

What is trauma bonding?

If you are experiencing trauma bonds you may notice how difficult it is to put any attention on yourself except to feel the pain of the trauma bonds. One effect of trauma bonding to a narcissist has on you is that it creates an overwhelming impulse to be thinking about the narcissist or trying to rationalize what happened in the relationship.

The gripping emotional pain and the way your mind wants only to think about the narcissist or the pain they caused you can make it feel impossible to even try when a suggestion of self-care is given. There are ways to help you through this and ideas for self-care which can be done simply throughout your day.

How can you tell if you're in a toxic relationship?

Ask yourself:

  1. Do you feel like you’re not good enough?
  2. Always feel like someone else’s needs are more important than your own?
  3. Does it sometimes feel like you’re not really a “REAL” person?
  4. Does someone in your life make you feel crazy?
  5. Do you sometimes doubt your own abilities?
  6. How about your own sanity – do you question it?
  7. Ever (sort of) joke that you’re “dead inside” and that nothing bothers you?

If you answered yes to any of the questions listed here, you might be in a relationship with a narcissist.

How do you know if you have a toxic family relationship?

In general, if you feel like you’re being emotionally, physically, spiritually or otherwise abused, manipulated or mistreated by any family member on a regular basis, there is an element of toxicity.

Related: 44 Warning Signs You’re Being Emotionally Abused

These family members can include your spouse and other nuclear family members, but also extended family such as parents and in-laws, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents and other relations.

Your toxic family member may over-criticize you or openly judge you for your personal choices, or they may be a little sneakier about it by gossiping or telling lies about you (or your choices) behind your back.

Related: Top 10 Warning Signs You’re Being Gaslighted by a Toxic Narcissist

Some family members may take it to a whole other level and actually attempt to wreak havoc in your life or even to control, destroy or alter your nuclear family, domestic situation or other outside relationships.

How do you start healing when you realize you're dealing with a narcissist?

You might think you’re not good enough.

You might think that your feelings and thoughts aren’t genuine or relevant to the world, and you might even feel like a big fake when you do try to follow your dreams, simply because you’ve heard for so long that you’re not worthy, whether directly or indirectly.

If you’re struggling with a toxic relationship, especially a family-based one, you may have had so much conditioning that you aren’t even sure which way is up.

The first step to healing is to start within your own head. You have to change those thoughts and limiting beliefs that are holding you back.

Are you a survivor of narcissistic abuse?

Here are some ways you can get help!

One-on-One Coaching

Schedule an appointment with one of our certified life coaches.

Free Support Group

Join our free online support group for narcissistic abuse survivors.

Small Group Coaching

Check out our lower-priced, small group coaching sessions!

Here are 10 Ways I Can Help You Survive and Thrive During and After Narcissistic Abuse

1. YouTube Videos – I know there are plenty of certified life coaches and authors out there who talk about narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse recovery. But I also know that everyone needs to receive the message in a way they can connect, and when you find someone you can understand and relate to, it can change your life. Maybe I’m someone you can connect with – and if so, maybe I can help you get to the next level in your healing. This is why I talk about narcissistic abuse recovery so often.

2. Articles – Since I’ve been writing and researching on this topic since around 2006, I’ve put together hundreds of articles, resources and videos that can help you to find yourself again and to learn how to reset your life to begin creating the reality you really deserve. You can see most of them at QueenBeeing.com.

3. Free Support Group – SPAN – Join my free, confidential online support group for narcissistic abuse survivors – we have 16 actively engaged moderators who are also survivors themselves, plus the QueenBeeing team to make sure you stay safe and get plenty of support.

4. One-on-One Coaching – I do phone, Skype and text message coaching. I believe every person on the planet is capable of creating the lives they truly deserve, but that most of us aren’t taught this as we grow up. My mission is to help you to discover, understand and overcome the narcissistic abuse in your life, and to help you take your life from “just existing” to “really living.” I spend my days working to help people who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves. In short, I want to help you go from being a victim of narcissistic abuse to a survivor and a thriver. Sign up at narcissisticabuserecovery.online.

5. Books, eBooks – I’ve written a LOT of books. About 20 of them can be found on Amazon.com. You can get to my profile there by typing “BooksAngieWrote.com” into your browser. All of my ebooks are priced from 1.99 to less than $8.

6. QueenBeeing Freebies & Email – subscribe to my free email newsletter, packed with information and inspiration to help you get through this difficult time in your life and figure out who you really are. You’ll also get access to all of QueenBeeing’s member freebies and gifts.

7. Online courses at Udemy and free email courses. Check out NarcissismSupportCoach.com.

8. Life Makeover Academy – The Life Makeover Academy is focused on improving every aspect of your life. Take some time and look around! Try out some of our free courses, and get involved in our community. If you’re tired of the life you’re living and you’re ready to create serious personal change, you have found your new online home. There are both free and paid courses available at Life Makeover Academy. Get there by going to LifeMakeover.org and hitting the “go to the academy” button at the top.

9. Group Coaching During Live Streams – Monday through Friday mornings and twice on “Talk to Me Tuesday.” You can subscribe to my YouTube channel and hit the bell notification to be notified when I’m going live – and for backup, you can text ANGIELIVE (without spaces) to 33222. I’ll text you five minutes before I go live each day.

10. Google Play & iTunes App – Audiojoy has produced an app with my content on both Google Play and iTunes. You can grab it free by searching my name – Angie Atkinson – in either store.

We have recently launched a weekly small group coaching program that gives people more individual attention but still cost less than more traditional one-on-one coaching.

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